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Republished from At the Coalface

Who are you and what do you do?

Penny Walker and I am the CHPP Superintendent at Malabar Resources Maxwell Coal Handling and Preparation Plant.

When did you start in the mining industry and what was your first job?

I first started in the mining industry in 2009 as a vacation student at HVO CHPP while it was part of Coal and Allied.

How different is your job now to what you wanted to be when you were a kid?

When I was a kid, my dream was to be the first person on Mars. My plan was to study Astrophysics and work for NASA. I guess you could say I always had big dreams.

What’s a usual day at work entail?

A shift start at 6am in which I catch up with my team and we go through our plan for the day. Then I usually then go and answer a few emails and work on project work around the expansion of Maxwell’s CHPP for a few hours. At some point I go out into the field and catchup with my team to see how their day is going and do a safety observation. I hate being stuck at a desk all day, so I enjoy a chance to get out in the field.

What’s the best thing about your job?

I’m lucky enough to really like my job so it’s hard to say just one thing. We are in a growth stage at the Maxwell CHPP so a large part of my job is identifying changes that will need to be made to the CHPP to convert from processing open cut coal to underground coal and to upgrade the CHPP to process the expected production volumes from the Maxwell Underground Mne. I love to solve problems, so this is right up my alley. I also love leading a team and creating a safe and positive culture at Maxwell. I’m lucky to have a great team.

The worst thing?

The early mornings.

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve had to overcome?

Learning how to lead a team of people that are very different from me. My team are predominately male tradespeople and I am a female engineer so we think very differently. I had to learn to see things from their point of view to get the best result overall.

What has been your proudest achievement?

Finishing my Engineering degree with Honors. I didn’t start university until I was 22 and I often had to work two jobs while studying to support myself. There was lots of time when I wanted to quit but I’m glad I stuck with it.

What’s something about your job that would surprise people to know?

Outside of my role at Malabar, I am also the first female Chairperson of the NSW Australian Coal Preparation Society. I am passionate about knowledge sharing in coal processing. Having a large network of contacts has helped me enormously in the recommissioning process of the Maxwell CHPP.

What’s a funny story about work that you can tell?

I never wanted to be a coal miner – I only took my vacation work placement as I missed out on the one I really wanted in oil and gas. When I reached site, I loved working in a coal preparation plant as it is a very visual process, and I found the coal industry to be a very supportive place to work. I enjoyed it so much that I’ve been working in CHPP’s ever since.

What do you do in your downtime?

Apart from spending time with my two amazing children I like to run long distances. My dream is complete a marathon one day.

The mining industry gets more than its fair share of criticism. What is your view of our industry and the impact it has?

There is no doubt that the world is changing, and everyone wants to be less dependent on coal however the coal industry is changing along with it. This is why I was excited to take my role at Malabar as we have a progressive site which will have a solar farm and use underground mining techniques to lessen our impact on our neighbors.